WESTERN SAN JUANS – For seniors in Montrose, Delta and San Miguel counties who depend on Volunteers of America’s Senior CommUnity Meals program, the federal government’s budget sequestration is having an adverse effect that’s leaving organizers hungry for a solution.
According to Senior CommUnity Meals Program Director Deana Sheriff, effects of the federal government’s so-called Sequestration budget cuts are forcing the organization to drastically reduce the number of meals it can serve to seniors at their home
“We are doing everything that we can on the local and national level to bring this to people’s attention,” Sheriff said. “We want to let people know that there are real people out there who need these meals. This is not dollar cuts, this is people cuts. It’s having a very serious impact on seniors’ ability to stay at home.”
Traditionally, Sheriff said, the CommUnity Meals program has been somewhat underfunded by the Older Americans Act. For the past four years, funding help has come from the Volunteers of America budget reserve. This year, however, with Sequestration cuts delivering about an 8 percent reduction in funding, alongside an increasing need and a reduced number of donations, the organization is forced to reduce the number of meals it can provide, from 115,000 to just 75,000 meals a year.
“This is going to have a significant impact,” Sheriff said. “In so many ways, we are actually a lifeline to keeping people at home, where they would rather be. One of our primary goals is to let people age in their home.”
Sheriff said Volunteers of America’s primary focus is serving the most vulnerable – those who cannot leave their homes. A program of frozen meal deliveries will be put in place to ensure those who cannot get out have something to eat. The frequency of delivery will depend on where the participant lives.
Congregate meal services with a suggested donation of $3 for seniors over age 60 will continue at the sites in Cedaredge, Delta, Hotchkiss, Norwood, Nucla, Olathe, and Paonia three days a week. Guests under age 60 will now be charged $8.40 per meal.
The meal site in Montrose will now operate on a reservations-only basis, and all seniors over age 60 will be required to pay $5 per meal. A delicious meal will be provided by the Homestead at Montrose, and served at the Pavilion.
Sheriff said the organization’s goal is to keep the senior meals program alive, and if budget changes are made in the future, the program is ready to expand again.
“We have reached a point where the government cutbacks, the cost of transportation and the cost of food has turned into a collision course. We are having to make some serious adjustments to keep the program viable,” she said. “If Congress comes around to realizing what the impacts are here on the ground and changes are made, we want to be in place to bring the program back up to speed.”
Organizers at Senior CommUnity Meals, Sheriff said, sincerely hope that this is a short-term problem, and said all efforts are being made to ensure future funding for services for senior citizens long into the future.
Further information on senior meal program will be mailed out to all registered participants in the program.